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Non-Structural Carbohydrates, Sugars and Fructans;
How are they effecting the inside and outside of your horses hoof? 

Written by Anne Riddell - Certified AANHCP Natural Hoof Care Practitioner

Have you ever wondered what the inside of your horse’s hoof looks like if you were able to peer inside? The horse’s hoof is an ever changing and adapting vascular mechanism. The outside wall mirrors the inside of the hoof, especially in the area of the sensitive laminae, otherwise known as the white line. The laminae are composed of the epidermal laminae and the dermal laminae. The two tightly fit together like velcro interlocking and securing the outside capsule of the foot to the inside structure. This bond is virtually indestructible through force unless it is otherwise compromised by a metabolic or toxic effect taking place in the horse’s system.  Through the studies of Dr. Chris Pollitt in Australia, we now understand how that connection of the laminae in the hoof is destroyed. Simply stated, there are good bacteria and bad bacteria in the horse’s gut. The good bacteria are killed off by the sugars creating a lactic acid which then causes lesions or ulcers in the hind gut. The bad bacteria love the sugars and carbs, mass producing in the hind gut. These bad bacteria die off very quickly, creating indotoxins. These indotoxins seep into the blood stream through the gut lesions and go straight to the laminae of the horse’s foot destroying it. The once tight connecting epidermal and dermal laminae lose hold of each other.  This is referred to as laminitis and founder.  There are varying degrees of laminitis, from sub clinical to full fledge founder. Sub clinical is what we as natural hoof care practitioners see every day we trim horses. A horse with a stretched white line, seedy toe, reoccurring abscessing, annoying thrush that won’t go away, dropped flat sole, small reoccurring pit in the centre of the sole at the toe, chronic cracks and stringy, tattered white line and overall disintegrating hoof capsule. These are all signs that the laminae is being compromised through to much sugar and toxins in the horses' digestive system.

Horses were not meant to consume large amounts of non structural carbohydrates and sugar. They are a foraging species who have lived for millions of years on grass hay, some herbs and plants and rocks for minerals. In the last 25 years, our domestic horses have been plied with enormous amounts of sweet feed, complete feed, toxic chemicals through wormers and inoculations. Now with the environment changing so quickly, this change is tipping many of the otherwise healthy domestic horses into this sub clinical laminitic and toxic state which very quickly leads to an undeserving and preventable end, founder.  Laminitis and insulin resistance are on the rise in our present day domestic horses.  Where is the added sugar coming from? Because of the increase drought, mineral deficiency in the soil and unpredictable fluctuations in daily temperature, the sugar percentage in our grass and hay is increasing at an alarming rate. Hay cut in the afternoon can be as much as 30 to 40% higher in sugar. Research has now proven that horses cannot digest fructans which grasses produce as a result of photosynthesis. Grass pasture, especially the short, drought stressed pastures can be 40% higher in sugars. Another example; a simple apple a few years ago had about 60 calories in it, today, that same apple could contain 120 calories per apple. Is this man’s genetic altering or changes in the environment causing this boost in the sugar content? Diabetes is on the rise in humans at an alarming rate and so is it in our domestic horses.

Diet plays a huge roll in the health of your horses hoof and the success of a barefoot horse starts here.

Lets  look at some hooves that have been compromised through a high sugar diet.

How often do we see hooves that look like this?

This poor guy’s has been having one laminitic attack after another. The  two laminae have lost their connection with no reprieve in sight. The hoof wall is separating and tattered. This guy was full of thrush. Along with rotation occurring, the coffin bone is beginning to remodel itself and form a bone spur at the tip.

A picture says a thousand words.

This poor soul could have been saved if only someone had known enough to change this animal's diet. This is years of neglect.

We now have the tools to change and prevent this from happening.  Please don’t ignore those tell tale signs. Ridges in your horses hoof wall, reoccurring abscessing, reoccurring thrush, flat sole, stringy laminae squeezing out of the white line on the sole, a small pit in the sole at the toe, cracking, chipping, stretched white line and tattered, separating wall. If your horse is tender footed on gravel or cement, then it is a warning sign that their system is overloaded with sugar and their hooves and system are seriously compromised. If your horse is one of those unfortunates who are insulin resistant or metabolically challenged, then, as little as, one tablespoon of sugar in the horse’s diet can keep them in a sub clinical laminitic state.

Here are more examples of compromised hooves displaying those subtle signs:

Sugar hides in many forms!

 Sweet feeds, complete feeds, and many supplements all contain large amounts of non structural carbohydrates and sugar.  Today’s domestic horses will have enough to contend with because of the increase of sugars in our grass and hay.  Research needs to be carried out in wild horse country to truly determine what is a natural diet for the horse.  They forage all day and night on grass hay, rocks for minerals and certain plants and tree barks. They don’t eat oats, wheat, corn or molasses as part of their native diet.  A typical complete feed  or ones with lots of fat and hi fibre, consists of  highly processed ingredients such as wheat hulls, oat hulls, corn, molasses, sugar, mixed grains, pellet binders and many other ingredients like flavouring agents and alfalfa.  All these will keep an already compromised horse in a sub clinical or mild laminitic state. Check the ingredient list of all your supplements as well. You will be shocked to find they too have sugar carriers and fillers in them.  If you suspect that your horse is having trouble dealing with sugar and carbs, take them off the grass and place them in a dry lot with grassy hay and water only. Eliminate all grains, supplements and other feeds you suspect has sugar in them.  There are now feeds and hay replacements that test under 11% non structural carbohydrates and are safe for the insulin resistant horse.  Finally, get that horse moving and exercising. 

For more information please see www.barefoothorsecanada.com or www.b2bhoofcare.ca


Katy Watts – www.safergrass.org   

Pete Ramey – www.hoofrehttp://www.hoofrehab.comhab.com            

Jaime Jackson –AANHCP Founder

Dr. Chris Pollitt, Queensland University, Australia

Photos from Anne Riddell and Carolyn Myers archives


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